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 R v Burgess [1991] 2 WLR 1206 Court of Appeal

The appellant smashed a bottle over a woman's head and then struck her with a video recorder whilst she was asleep. The appellant had no recollection of the events and claimed he had been sleepwalking. This claim was supported by medical evidence. He sought to rely on the defence of automatism, however the trial judge ruled that on the evidence the only defence available was insanity. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. The defendant appealed contending that the trial judge should have allowed the defence of automatism to be put before the jury.

Held:

The appeal was dismissed. The evidence demonstrated there was an abnormality or disorder, albeit transitory, due to an internal factor, which had manifested itself in violence and which might recur.

Lord Lane CJ
"We accept that sleep is a normal condition, but the evidence in the instant case indicates that sleepwalking, and particularly violence in sleep, is not normal."
 
Back to lecture outline on the law on insanity in criminal liability